Valley needs water filtration, CVRD hears

Filtration deferral has saved district millions

  • Feb. 5, 2015 6:00 p.m.

Scott Stanfield

Record Staff

Filtration is needed for the Comox Valley’s water system, medical health officer Charmaine Enns told the CVRD water committee in a Tuesday presentation about turbidity and the recent boil water advisory.

The Dec. 11 to Jan. 27 advisory was preceded by another that ran from Oct. 27 to Nov. 5. In her 12 years serving the North Island, Enns said four water advisories have been issued. The first two were shorter in duration.

“There was something uniquely different in December,” she said. “That was a sustained, elevated turbidity.”

Turbidity, or murkiness, refers to fine suspended particles picked up by water as it passes through streams and rivers in a watershed. Turbidity levels did not drop as rapidly as usual after a storm system hammered the Valley. The safety level is 1 NTU (Nephelometric Turbidity Units).

During the advisory, officials noted the lack of a filtration system. Island Health had granted the district ‘filtration deferral.’ But as time went by, Enns said it became evident the deferral needed to be rescinded.

“We want to be fair, but have to balance with public health. Technically, you didn’t meet it (drinking water standards policy),” she said.

Area C director Edwin Grieve said directors invested years of hard work to save millions of dollars through filtration deferral.

Officials estimate a filtration system would cost $50 — $70 million.

Comox director Ken Grant, noting an impending “large bill,” questioned if the district is over-testing its water quality.

He notes too that restaurateurs and others in the tourism sector took a hit during the boil water advisory.

Manager of engineering services Marc Rutten said data from water sampling shows turbidity in Comox Lake is not organic. Enns noted that turbidity was consistent in all levels of the lake.

The CVRD will apply to a gas tax fund for the design and installation of a water filtration plant, as approved by the committee. A consultant will analyze Comox Lake source water quality in order to recommend the final treatment option for the Valley’s water system.